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Heroin Abuse Rises as Prescription Painkillers Become Harder to Get


Prescription painkiller abuse has been a problem of frightening proportions over the last decade. In the past years, authorities have tried to find a solution to this problem by setting up pill-monitoring systems, reorganizing the way doctors could prescribe addictive narcotics and busting clinics that irresponsibly prescribed painkillers (Center For Addiction Recovery). However, these measures have had unintended consequences, including the increased use of heroin in demographics which formerly hadn’t been affected by this drug – such as affluent suburbs and teenagers, resulting in a spike in crime and overdoses.

The cost of prescription pills has risen as authorities and manufacturers have tried to find a way to curb the growing prescription painkiller abuse. In 2010, for example, when Purdue Pharma discontinued the manufacturing and distribution of the original Oxycontin and replaced it with a gel, they were trying to find a way to provide effective pain relief with a lower abuse potential than the original pill (Wedell). As a result of actions like this, including the government coming down hard on prescription painkiller abuse and the doctors who enable it, the price of painkillers has risen substantially while the availability of these pills has decreased.  An 80 mg Oxycontin in today’s black market can go for over $100 a pill; making it difficult for addicts to maintain their habit – and many of these addicts are turning to the cheaper, easily available alternative: heroin (Leger).

Heroin, which was largely thought of as an urban street drug, is now finding its way into wealthy suburban neighborhoods, with doctors, lawyers, nurses and other prominent figures finding themselves hooked on this deadly drug. The implementation of tighter prescription pill laws seems to be directly correlated to the coinciding increase of heroin users – according to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, once tighter restrictions were in place, prescription painkiller abuse declined, while heroin use climbed (Leger). In 2011, it was estimated that around 281,000 people over the age of twelve regularly used heroin as compared to 119,000 in 2003 (Leger). The frequency of heroin related crime and overdoses has increased as well. In 2011, for example the Delaware State Police had 578 investigations relating to heroin, while in 2012 the number of these investigations rose to 1,163 – and this is not an isolated incident; rather, it’s a common theme across the nation (Leger). People will do anything for their next fix, from a burglary to a home invasion. And heroin may be becoming more accessible than ever: addicts who participated in an OSAMN study relayed that heroin could be easier to obtain than beer or marijuana, two of the most easily accessible substances in the US (Wedell).

This is a frightening trend, and although prescription painkiller abuse is deadly, heroin is considered twice as addictive, twice as hard to quit, and twice as lethal (Center For Addiction Recovery).  Crime and overdoses characterize long-term heroin abuse, landing many youth in jail or early graves. While something undoubtedly needed to be done about the prescription painkiller problem in America, it had unintended and seriously devastating consequences. From here, we need to try to treat the opiate epidemic in a different way; offering increased opportunities for awareness and treatment.


Works Cited

“Addicts Turn To Heroin As Pain Pills Become Scarce.” 08 July 2013. Center For Addiction Recovery. Web. 11 July 2013.

Leger, Donna Leinwand. “OxyContin a gateway to heroin for upper-income addicts.” 28 June 2013. USA Today. Web. 11 July 2013.

Wedell, Katie. “Pain pill addicts use heroin when money gets tight, drug study says.” 09 May 2011. Springfield News Sun. Web. 11 July 2013.

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Written by

A native New Yorker, Bre loves the California scene and writing for Treatment4Addiction. She has been writing content for T4A for five months, and loves to learn new things, form opinions, and send them out to the world. Her interests include dance, singing, acting, talking with friends, being a daughter, and being the best big sister she can to her 16 year old brother. After attending ASU for a few months, she is interested in taking cosmetology classes and exploring her options. She looks forward to learning all she can, and doing something positive with that knowledge and experience.

Filed under: Addiction, Alcohol and Drugs · Tags: crime and overdoses, Heroin, prescription painkiller abuse is operated by Recovery Brands LLC, a subsidiary of American Addiction Centers, Inc.
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